I just finished reading “The Google Story” and I have to say that it is one of the best books I have read in a while. The book is presented chronologically, so you are on the journey with Larry Page and Sergey Brin as they start working on Google from the William Gates building at Stanford university. You really get a feel for what drives the decisions they make. One of the sections that I found most interesting was very late on when talking about the future involvement in China. The conflict revolved around Dr. Kai-Fu Lee (who served on the China Redmond Advisory board). He worked for Microsoft since 1998 and was paid for what he did in millions of dollars from Microsoft. Dr. Lee decided that he wanted to serve as Google’s chief of China after his one year noncompetition agreement expired with Microsoft. He was told “You should not go. Things will be very unpleasant for you if you go.” by Microsoft VP Rick Rashid. “If you leave we would have to do something, and when we do something, please don’t take it personally.” Steve Ballmer told him. “Steve is definitely going to sue you and Google over this. He has been looking for something like this.” Bill Gates told Dr. Lee. The climactic build up of Microsoft employees defecting to Google came to a head in Ballmer’s infamous board meeting where he yelled “I am going to fucking kill Google” while throwing a chair across the room.
It really paints a shocking picture of the cultural differences between the two companies. Google’s motto has always been “don’t be evil” in a time when Microsoft is seen as the Darth Vader of the software world. Google is a company that has never charged or required a subscription for its services. The software was written with a “make it the best” first, and worry about making a profit second. Google has spent almost nothing on advertisements, and now holds a value of close to a third of Microsoft’s worth.
Almost every aspect of the company from a corporate cultural standpoint is untraditional. The Googleplex is more of a giant playground for employees than an office. The two founders still oversee most business operations. Even the IPO for Google was unprecedented, with equitarianism in mind.
A must read for anyone interested in pursuing a software development path in life. I have the book sitting on my desk and anyone is welcome to take turns reading it that wishes. I think that Joyce has first dibs.